With the intensity of agricultural related aviation activity
increasing at this time of the year with activities such as locust
spotting and spraying, it is important that all aerial work pilots
maintain an awareness of the fatal consequences of fatigue while
carrying out these activities.
The ATSB was recently notified of an incident where a pilot
undertaking locust spotting activities needed to be woken by an
observer on the aircraft. The pilot reportedly flew part-time and
his fatigue may have been related to his other activities as a
Not only is fatigue brought on by the amount of flying time and
the type of flying you are doing, it is also attributable to what
you are doing when not flying. If you have another job, especially
one that requires long hours and involves strenuous activity or
long periods of concentration, you're more prone to fatigue while
What are the effects of fatigue?
Fatigue reduces your ability to conduct flying tasks.
Specifically, the effects include:
• slowed reaction times
• reduced vigilance
• slower mental abilities
• memory problems
• poor communication
• reduced alertness
• poor decision-making
• fixation on a single task
• actually falling asleep while flying.
How do I know if I'm fatigued?
Research shows that people often find it difficult to recognise
they are fatigued. Fatigue can be short-term (acute) or long-term
(chronic). Acute fatigue can occur in a matter of hours as a result
of excessive and sustained mental or physical activity. Chronic
fatigue is experienced when the normal period of rest or sleep over
consecutive days is insufficient.
Try this checklist
You can use the following self-assessment checklist to give
yourself an objective assessment of your fatigue risk before you
• did you have less than eight hours sleep last
• have you missed out on adequate sleep over the
• has your sleep been disrupted
• have you been awake and/or at work for an
• have you had less than six hours sleep in the
last 24 hours (or 14 hours sleep in the last two days)
• have you had a recent illness or injury
• are you affected by medication, other drugs or
If your answer to one or more of these questions is yes or even
maybe, you're at a higher risk of fatigue.
Tips for countering fatigue
Arrange work and personal activities to ensure you get adequate
sleep each night (eight hours).
Look out for cumulative sleep loss - missing a couple of hours
of sleep each night adds up to sleep debt.
Be conscious of the quality of your sleep - if your sleep
quality has been poor, it may not be safe to fly:
• interruption to sleep can be from stress,
babies crying, sleeping disorders, shift work, jet lag or any
number of factors.
• degraded sleep quality significantly lessens
the restorative effect of sleep.
Avoid flying towards the end of a day; especially if you woke
early or if you've been active throughout the day.
Take extra precautions if you haven't had a day of in a while or
having been working long hours.
Plan your activities for a maximum of two-hours flying, with a
rest in between each flight, and a maximum of eight hours flying in
When assessing your potential fatigue levels, take into account
all activities you do throughout your day - not just flying.
Napping during the day may help recharge the batteries:
• limit your nap to between 20 and 40
• wait 30 minutes after a nap to ensure you are
fully awake before you fly.
Proper nutrition and plenty of water helps keep you alert:
• minimise fatty and high-sugar foods
• don't rely on caffeine (coffee, energy drinks)
as they only provide short-term relief from the effects of
Share this information with your co-workers and family. Ask them
to keep an eye on your performance. Do the same for others you fly
Remember, getting enough quality sleep is essential to avoiding